Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Stephon Gilmore vs. Brandon Marshall
What makes this number one corner vs. number one receiver matchup particularly attractive is the fact that both parties play a physical game. Hopefully the officiating crackdown on defensive holding in the preseason doesn't mar what should be an intense down-by-down battle.
2. Cordy Glenn vs. Jared Allen
Buffalo's left tackle has blended back into the offensive line unit after being sidelined with an illness. He'll face Chicago's new headline pass rusher, who since 2009 has the most sacks in the NFL (71).
3. Mario Williams vs. Jordan Mills
Mills is just in his second NFL season, but started all 16 games as a rookie in 2013 surrendering just two and a half sacks. The Bears right tackle is likely to get some help from Chicago's tight ends and backs in pass protection on plays where Jay Cutler has more than a three-step drop.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Receiving weapons
While the Bears offense presents a major challenge with their receiving targets, Buffalo's weapons in the passing game are also pretty formidable. The additions of Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams have provided the passing attack with a pair of big play options to better balance out the Bills offense.
Best advantage – Run game
Buffalo's second-ranked rushing attack of a season ago should have good success against a run defense that ranked last in the league in 2013. Chicago did not go to great lengths to sure up one of the weakest parts of their game. After giving up more than 160 rushing yards per game the Bears will have to prove to Buffalo that they can stop the Bills ground game.
Bills Number 1 Must
Red zone defense
The Bears were the number two scoring team in the league last season averaging just under 28 points per game (27.8). Chicago was also ranked sixth in red zone touchdown efficiency in 2013 finding the end zone better than 58 percent of the time. Buffalo's red zone defense was stout in its own right ranking sixth in the league last year (47.1%). The Bills defense will need to have that kind of success Sunday holding Chicago to less than a 50 percent success rate if and when they crack Buffalo's 20-yard line.
Run game struggles
Chicago's run game last season was right in the middle of the pack at 16th in 2013. This summer however, was a much different story. The Bears ground attack struggled to string positive plays together and managed just 71 yards a game, second-worst in the league this preseason. Though they were likely playing things close to the vest with play calling, creating holes up front has been an issue.
The Bills were second in the NFL in sacks with a franchise-record 57. Sacking Bears QB Jay Cutler however, might prove difficult. With a bulk of Chicago's passing game working off three step drops combined with Cutler's quick release, NFL clubs found Cutler difficult to bring down. Chicago allowed the third-fewest sacks in the league last year (30). The Bears' offense is expected to operate in similar fashion this season with Cutler getting the ball out fast.
Not so special
The coverage units for Chicago's special teams has not used the preseason as an effective springboard into the regular season. After having a pair of solid coverage units in 2013, which finished sixth (punt coverage) and first (kick coverage) in the league, the Bears specialists looked a bit leaky in the preseason.
Chicago ended the preseason ranked 28th in kick coverage and 31st in punt coverage. On punt coverage they surrendered a long return of 59 yards to Seattle's Earl Thomas. On kick return they gave up a 46-yarder to the Seahawks Percy Harvin and a 102-yard return for a touchdown to Philadelphia's Josh Huff.
Even their reliable kicker Robbie Gould has had some trouble from distance in the preseason going 0-for-3 from 40-yards plus.
The Bears signed free agent S Ryan Mundy on the first day of free agency this past offseason in an effort to bolster their pass defense. Though Mundy is listed as the starting free safety on the roster, the defensive staff plans to rotate safeties through the course of Sunday's game. The main reason is because Mundy and fellow safety Danny McCray both have big roles on special teams. So provided Chris Conte is cleared to play from his preseason concussion he, along with rookie Brock Vereen will rotate in and out of the lineup Sunday.
He probably still doesn't garner the respect he deserves, but Bears RB Matt Forte is a force out of the backfield and has been for some time. Since 2010 Forte ranks fifth in the league in all-purpose yardage over the last four seasons. He's averaged 109.7 yards per game over that span, which trails only Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy.
The Bears have more than their share of aerial offensive weapons in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and lead back Matt Forte. Midway through the preseason the team added veteran free agent Santonio Holmes. Though he may not see a lot of time on the field Sunday he's a notorious Bills killer from his days with the New York Jets. In his seven career games against the Bills Holmes has 20 catches for 417 yards (20.7 avg.) and four touchdowns. Six of his 20 catches against Buffalo have gone for 25 yards or more.
Quote of the Week
"There are a bunch of formations and different gadgets that we added in going into this game. We want to move the ball, but that's why I am excited because it is a true game-plan week. We really put in a lot of work. Coach Hackett has a great plan for these guys and I think it's just a matter of us offensively executing what he has for us."
– QB EJ Manuel
Stat of the Week
The Chicago Bears are 18-3 in their last 21 season openers at home dating back to 1984.
Milestones in reach
- Fred Jackson needs two rushing touchdowns to become just the fourth Bills player in team history with 30 or more TDs.
- Leodis McKelvin needs one punt return touchdown to set a franchise record with four.
- Mike Williams needs 53 receiving yards for 3,000 in his career.
Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffery were college teammates at South Carolina for three seasons and went against one another every day in practice in Columbia.